As we go through the next 8 factors there are two important points to always keep in mind – (1) the word “right” before each factor is not about some ultimate right but rather points to the right way to work with the factor and (2) if you keep your focus on the energy behind (you may also feel it as contained within or underneath) the factor you will be able to work with the factor in any situation or condition.
Right View, also referred to as Right Understanding, can be thought of as the book ends to the Eightfold Path. Right View is the beginning step on the path and the first half of the Wisdom Section of the path. As the beginning step, it sets the path in motion. As the first half of Wisdom, it starts us off in the right direction towards the cessation of suffering in our lives.
Generally, our view is the mental application of the backdrop for our entire life orientation. It is the framework for our movements/actions; our attitudes/moods; our opinions/judgments and our sense of self/choices. It is conditioned by family norms, social norms, ancestral/ spiritual/cultural beliefs, education, employment, language, etc. These conditions (and much more) affect the way we perceive the world. Ignorance, or wrong view, is when we don’t see or remember that our view is constantly being skewed by our conditioning. Right View would be having the wisdom to remember and therefore not take ourselves so seriously.
Right View is also divided into two types. The first type is called Mundane Right View. This relates to our relative realities. It is about learning to take responsibility for our actions. Not in a punitive way but more so out of maturity and integrity. This is about being willing to see the long term impact of our actions – be they thoughts, words or deeds. This type of view is often connected to the Pali term Karma. English covers this word in such heaviness that it’s best to consider other words that get to the same point. Volitional action is the most accurate. If our intentional actions stem from unskillful energy such as greed, aversion or delusion the result will be suffering for ourselves, others or both. If our intentional actions stem from skillful energy such as non-harm, goodwill or restraint, the result will be “happiness” (contentment, joy, a sense of well-being, blamelessness – whatever word works for you). Mundane Right View reminds us that we are responsible for results of our actions regardless of whether they stem from skillful or unskillful energy.
The second type of is called Superior (or Super) Mundane Right View. This relates to a deepening understanding of the 4 Noble Truths. We begin with learning the truths, studying them and reflecting upon their implications in the way we live. At some point, we turn this intellectual understanding inward and we began to recognize suffering in our own lives, we investigate it (see our clinging) and remain patient until we see the fading away. We see the ultimate truth – that everything that is subject to arising is subject to ceasing.
This month we want to pay attention to what aspects of our lives is impacting our views, opinions, assumptions, actions, thoughts, words, etc. We want to check the energy behind all this as well. We are just starting out on the path, so this is about turning towards our perception and being willing to walk our talk.